Travel Snapshot: The 2,000 Islands of Vietnam's Halong Bay
Halong Bay, or the "Bay of Descending Dragons," is about a three-hour car ride to the east of Hanoi, known for its remarkable scenery of 2,000 islands that rise up from its waters. There are literally hundreds of boats willing to take tourists out for a sail, some for the day and others overnight.
It is very important that you do your research before going, as there is a good chance you will end up disappointed if you show up and wing it. You can ask around amongst fellow travelers in Hanoi, or simply use TripAdvisor to see what others have experienced. Many tourists complain of paying too much for very little, and so you want to go with a reputable company. We sailed on the Emeraude, which our sis HotelChatter will dish on next week.
All the more reason to plan ahead is that many companies will transport you to and from Hanoi as part of the package. Although a day trip from Hanoi is doable, we recommend an overnight boat to maximize your time on the water and take in the different hours of daylight (plus, a six-hour roundtrip is a long way to go for a half day sail).
Regardless of how you make it happen, be sure to pencil in a visit as part of a stay in Hanoi. After getting a feel for the beehive-buzz of the city, the slowed pace, fresh air, and natural scenery of the coast proves to be a great complement.
[Photos: Will McGough]